Handwriting is good for your creativity and memory

By Dr. Laura Mondino

Writing down information and appointments by hand (instead of using the keyboard) helps you to remember concepts and notions better.

In adults, because handwriting is slower than typing, it gives you more time  to reflect; whereas in children, it also facilitates the learning process: allowing them to  not only learn to read quicker, once having learned to write by hand, but also to  make them more capable of generating ideas and of conserving data.

In other words, it is not only what we write that counts, but how we do it.


Several studies support this theory, including the one carried out on children by the psychologist of the University of  Washington, Virginia Berninger. The researcher demonstrated that when children write freehand , they not only produce more words more quickly than they do with a keyboard, but also express more ideas, showing greater fluidity of language and information (and neural activation in the areas associated to the work memory and to the networks of reading and writing of the brain), than similar aged children who do their writing with a keyboard.


The benefits of handwriting extend beyond childhood. Two psychologists, Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have found that both under laboratory conditions and in the class, students learn better when taking handwritten notes. “Handwriting  – explain the researchers – allows the student to process the content and reformulate it: a process of reflection and handling that may lead to a better understanding and codification in the mind”

Put more simply writing things down on paper “teaches” us to read better, contributes to reinforcing the areas of the  brain where the shape of the letters is recognised or where the sounds are associated to words.Further confirmation comes from China, where the “pinyin” transcription system of Chinese on QWERTY keyboards is increasingly used: abandoning the handwritten Chinese characters, diagnoses of dyslexia and other reading difficulties are undergoing continual growth. “Typing a letter does not let you really understand the shape and the possible variations that do not change its meaning, like what does actually happen when you learn to write it by hand”, explains Karin James of the University of Bloomington, in Indiana.

Basically: when writing something by hand or with a digital pen, several more parts of the brain “light up” than when we use the keyboard. And using the pen activates deeper areas of the brain and this has positive effects on both memory and on learning in children and in adults.